'Breach of right to express': Activists claim court restrains Nigeria from prosecuting Twitter users

WION Web Team
Abuja, Nigeria Published: Jun 23, 2021, 05:23 PM(IST)

This photograph taken on October 26, 2020 shows the logo of US social network Twitter displayed on the screen of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southern France Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Twitter was banned from Nigeria a few days after it suspended President Muhammadu Buhari’s account following an 'abusive' civil war tweet

A few weeks after the Nigerian government banned Twitter from the country, a West African court has restrained the authorities from "unlawfully" prosecuting people using the social media platform.

After banning Twitter in the country, the Nigerian attorney general declared that anyone who defied the ban will be prosecuted. However, he had not made it clear which law will be invoked for such 'criminal activities'.

Also read | 'Unpatriotic': Nigeria government orders media houses to stop using Twitter

To counter this, a local rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), knocked on the court’s door to challenge this new law. The court ruled that interfering with someone’s interest in Twitter would be equivalent to interfering with their freedom of expression.

"The court has listened very well to the objection," SERAP Nigeria said. "Any interference with Twitter is viewed as inference with human rights, and that will violate human rights."

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Activists also argued that the Nigeria government should be held responsible for violation of "their fundamental human right and for breaching its international obligations".

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The Nigerian government, meanwhile, claims the ban is not a means to stop people from exercising their right to express and the decision was taken to make sure people use these platforms responsibly.

"Regulating social media is not about stifling press freedom. All we are talking about is the responsible use of these platforms," Nigeria’s Information minister Lai Mohammed told Reuters.

Twitter was banned from Nigeria a few days after Twitter suspended President Muhammadu Buhari’s account following an 'abusive' civil war tweet.

Also read | 'Everyone should ban them': Trump hails Nigeria's Twitter ban

The leader had tweeted in relation to the 1967-70 civil war saying, "Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand".

Claiming it to be a strong violation of the "abusive behaviour" policy, Twitter suspended President’s account for 12 hours. However, the government decided to suspend the platform for an indefinite time and claimed Twitter was being misused for activities that were "capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence".

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